Each locality has its questions of interest; each state has subjects which arouse discussion ; each nation has its issues of paramount importance, and the world has its problems. There are transient questions which come and go and questions which, like Tennyson's brook, "go on forever." Each generation, in each country, meets the issues presented by conditions, but all the nations of the earth are constantly grappling with problems universal in their scope and everlasting in duration. In his famous oration at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln spoke of an "unfinished work" which those buried there had promoted and to which the living should dedicate themselves. Every generation finds an unfinished work when it enters upon life's stage and leaves the work unfinished when it departs. The work of civilization is ever an unfinished one for the reason that new problems present themselves as soon as present ones have been solved. In our trip around the world we have had an opportunity to note some of the problems which most concern all peoples at all times. The first concerns the legitimate sphere of government—what should the government, acting for all the people, do, and what should be left to the individual? This problem is under consideration in every civilized nation, and no two nations have reached the same solution. At the two extremes stand the individualist and the socialist—the former jealously guarding the individual and opposing any encroachments upon his sphere of action, the, latter emphasizing the work of the state and seeking to convert the work of production and the work of distribution into state functions. Between these extremes stand the mass of the people, governed more by the exigencies of each individual case than by the theories put forward by individualist and socialist. In some directions the governments of Europe and Asia have extended the sphere of the state beyond anything known in the United States; in some respects our government has enlarged the sphere of the state beyond anything attempted in the old world, but everywhere the tendency is to extend rather than to diminish the sphere of the state's activities.
In the United States the public school is probably the best illustration of extensive co-operation on the part of the public. We regard the education of the people as a matter of public importance—so vital a matter, in fact, that we no longer depend upon the private school. The private school has its place, and its establishment is encouraged by localities and regarded with favor by the government, but the people, acting as a whole, insist that the school door shall be open to every child born into the country. In the last quarter of a century much advance has been made in the establishment by the public of technical schools, such as law schools, medical colleges, dentistry schools, industrial schools and agricultural colleges. Probably the greatest comparative advance has been made in the matter of agricultural colleges and experiment stations. In Europe the public school system is spreading, more rapidly in northern than in southern Europe, but not less surely in southern Europe. In Asia the people are just beginning to recognize education as a public function—a part of the state's work. In Japan public instruction has for some years been modeled after the systems employed in the United States and Europe. In Asia the public school is more of a modern origin, but some idea of the rapidity with which the public school is spreading in China may be known from the fact that four thousand public schools have been established within five years in the district of one of the viceroys.
Municipal ownership presents another phase of this subject; a century ago comparatively few cities in this country or Europe owned their own waterworks ; now it is the exception that any city of any size relies upon a private corporation for its water supply. City lighting is having the same history, although municipalization began Iater with lighting plants than with waterworks. Now comes the question of street car lines, and, as the same principles apply, the same inevitable trend toward municipal ownership is noticeable. The experience of all the cities has been practically the same ; first, liberal franchises to induce the establishment of water, light or street car plants; second, efforts at. regulation and restriction, made futile by the corrupt influence of the franchise companies; third, municipal ownership as a protection to the people and as a means of purifying politics. In the extent to which municipal ownership has been carried Great Britain leads the world, although in other countries some cities like Vienna have rivaled the cities of Great Britain.
In nearly all of the countries of Europe and Asia the telegraph lines are now owned by the government, and. in most of the cities the telephone system is also owned by the public. It is hardly necessary to say that in all countries of any standing the mail service is row in the hands of the government. There is very noticeable growth . in the government ownership of railroads. Many years ago the government ownership of railroads was tested in various European nations and the tendency toward the extension of government mileage and the diminution of the mileage of privately owned roads has been constant. In some countries there is still competition between the government lines and the lines owned by private corporations, but experience leaves no doubt that the lines owned by the government will ultimately supplant the roads in private hands. Switzerland has within four years purchased the main railroad system within her territory; Japan has within a year extended the government railroads by purchasing some of the roads formerly in private hands, and the Indian government is planning to absorb more of the privately owned lines. In France a number of the railroads hold fifty-year charters, which have now more than half expired, and which provide for the surrender of the lines to the government at the end of that period—the government in the meantime guaranteeing a fixed interest and an annual contribution to the sinking fund. It is not fair to compare the government railroads of Europe with the private railroads of America. The conditions are- quite different. The comparison should be made between the government and private in the same country. Experience has shown that in the United States municipal plants furnish better and cheaper service than private plants.
While local considerations and local conditions have much to do in the determination of each case, there is one general principle which is becoming more and more clearly outlined as the question of government ownership is discussed, namely, that when a monopoly becomes necessary it must be a government monopoly and not a monopoly in private hands. In other words, the principle now most familiarly applied is, "competition where competition is possible; government monopoly where competition is impossible." I have not space for the discussion of details ; many different methods have been employed in different countries for the acquiring of private plants by the city or state, and different methods have been employed in different countries for the elimination of the political element from public service. Those who have faith in the intelligence and capacity of the people have confidence that they will be able to reduce to a minimum any dangers attendant upon a course which they believe to be necessary to their own welfare. The fact that after more than a quarter of a century of experience no retrograde movement is to be observed furnishes some proof that the dangers anticipated have not been shown to be insurmountable.
Another world problem is to be found in the effort to fix woman's place in the social economy. No one can travel around the world without noting the wide difference that exists between the treatment of woman in different countries. In the Orient she has, until comparatively recent years, occupied 'a very inferior position. In no respect has the influence of the west upon the east been more marked than in the elevation of woman. Even in Japan, where for half a century the ideas of America and Europe have found vigorous growth, woman's position is not yet equal to man's. The education of boys received attention before the education of the girls, but the girl' schools are now multiplying in number and in attendance. Traveling in the country one still sees the blackened teeth, it formerly having been regarded as the proper thing for a woman to make her teeth black after marriage, but among the young generation the custom is unknown. In China woman has not only lagged behind man in education, but she has been subjected to a torture known as foot-binding which is to be found nowhere else. Societies are now being formed to discourage the practice, but it is sad to learn how slowly this reform has grown. In both Japan and China plural marriage, or what has been equivalent to plural marriage, has been common. The man has been allowed to take unto himself as many wives as he could support without asking the consent of former wives—a practice which seems strange to those who have been brought up to regard the marriage vows as mutually binding and to consider man and woman as standing upon an equal plane when entering upon the relation of husband and wife.
In India child marriage is one of the worst customs that has afflicted these unhappy people. Girls have been given in marriage when only nine or ten years old, and a widow of twelve or thirteen is not unusual. Remarriage of widows is not permitted under Hindu custom, suttee, or the burning of the widow, formerly being regarded as the proper thing. In both India and Arabia the women are still veiled and excluded from the society of men. It is difficult to estimate the loss that has come to society from the failure to recognize the mutual stimulus which man and woman find in co-operation in the work of civilization.
Even in Europe woman's position is not as good as it is in the United States, although in the Christian countries her rights are more respected and her good influence more appreciated. Max O'Rell, the witty French lecturer, used to say that if he was going to be born a woman he would pray to be born in the United States. It was a happy expression, for surely there is no other country in which so high an estimate is placed upon woman or where she more fully shares in both the joys and responsibilities of life. For the superiority of her position she has Christianity and education to thank ; Christianity has ever recognized woman's equality with man and education has fitted her to be a real helpmate in life.
A third question which one meets everywhere is the labor question. In Europe it is a question between labor and capital and the laborer is organizing for the advancement of his welfare. The guild and the labor organization have long sought to enlarge the laborer's share of the joint profit of labor and capital and to improve the, conditions which form his environment. The efforts of these societies have mainly been directed, first, toward the improvement of sanitary conditions; second, toward the shortening of hours; and, third, toward an increase in wages. It looks like a reflection on mankind in general to say that laboring men should have to ask legislation to protect their lives while at work. It would seem that employers would of their own accord regard the safety and the health of employes as of paramount importance, and yet it has been necessary even in the United States to compel the building of air-shafts in mines and to force the use of safety appliances on railroads and street car lines, and in the operation of machinery. Still more strange is it that it should be necessary to fix a minimum age at which children can be employed. The very sight of little boys and girls working in factories at the expense of their physical growth and their mental development is so revolting that one can hardly understand how such legislation can be necessary, and yet throughout Europe and the United States laboring men through their organizations have been compelled to fight for the protection of the children of the poor. In Asia the inauguration of factories has not yet been followed by the protection of the children.
Reforms advance in groups. It is seldom that one real reform is achieved alone, so the limitation of hours of labor has, as a rule, accompanied legislation for the protection of children and for the improvement of sanitary conditions in mines and workshops. Those who now enjoy an eight-hour day can remember the nine-hour day and the ten-hour day,. but can hardly recall the days of twelve or fourteen hours. In the factories that are starting up in the Orient long hours are the rule, and with long hours there is the attendant degradation of the toiler. The demand for the eight-hour day is an international one and the laboring man is gradually winning his fight, partly by an appeal to conscience and partly by proof that the highest efficiency is inconsistent with long hours.
In the raising of wages two factors have been at work—the labor organization and the higher efficiency that has come with more universal education. The educated workman can earn more than the ignorant one and he soon demands a compensation commensurate with his services.
The labor saving machine, too, has played no unimportant part in increasing the workman's compensation. It has raised the quality of the work done and has brought into use a higher grade of skill than was formerly employed. While the labor saving machine is by some regarded as antagonistic to the welfare of the laborer, no farsighted observer can fail to note that it has increased rather than diminished the number employed at the work into which it has been introduced, while it has developed a higher skill which, in turn, has secured a higher compensation. The handling of a railroad locomotive requires more skill than the handling of a freight team, and the engineer commands higher wages than the teamster. The railroad by vastly increasing commerce has multiplied the number of persons engaged in the handling of passengers and freight, and it has at the same time improved the character of the work done and raised the intellectual standard of those employed. The same result has followed in other kinds of work. It might be stated thus : labor saving machinery, as it is called—although it might more properly be called labor-multiplying machinery—has created a demand for a higher grade of labor; universal education has supplied this demand, and the labor organization has secured for these higher grade laborers larger compensation and more favorable conditions.
One thought has grown upon me as we have traveled,, namely, the dignity of labor. In no other country is so high an estimate placed upon the wage-earner as in this country. In the Orient there was, until the advent of western ideas, an impassable gulf between the prince and his people, and there is even now in a large part of Asia a gulf so wide that one who toils with his hands cannot look across it. The royal families have lived by the sword and they have forced from those beneath them a tribute sufficient to support themselves and their armed retainers. The masses have been the prey of the governing classes, no matter what tribe or family held the throne.
In Europe the extremes of 'society have been brought nearer together, although there is still a gap between the aristocracy and the masses. This gap, however, is constantly decreasing, education and popular government being the most influential factors in bringing about this result. With education now more and more within the reach of all, the poor boy is forcing his way to the front in business, and with his fortune thus acquired he is leveling rank. In the political world, too, the champion of the weak and the oppressed is making his influence felt and his political power is opening before him doors which until recently were closed. In France deputies, senators and even presidents have come up from the people, and in England a labor leader, John Burns, has fought his way into the cabinet. Who will say that the European laboring man is not making progress when labor's foremost representative in Great Britain becomes the guest of the king?
Yes, America leads the world in recognition of the true worth of the man who toils, and yet even in America there is room for still further advancement. Our national life is full of instances of men who have risen from office boy to merchant prince, from plowman to governor, congressman and senator; we have had a rail-splitter made president—and no president ever bore himself better or served amid more trying times—while another president could recall the days when he followed the towpath on a canal. And yet, with these illustrious examples of poverty overcome and great careers built upon a foundation of manual labor, there is still much to be done before the producer of wealth will receive the consideration which he deserves. The dignity of labor will not be appreciated as it ought to be until our young men are taught that it is more honorable to con-tribute by labor to the sum of the world's wealth than to spend in idleness the money that others have made.
Tolstoy contends that people cannot be kept in sympathy with each other unless all perform some physical labor throughout their lives; he says that contempt for those who do the drudgery of life is natural if we put that drudgery upon others and reserve for ourselves only intellectual pursuits. Whether this be true or not, it is true that we cannot view labor in its proper relation to life unless we measure life by a standard different from that which is now ordinarily applied. So long as we measure life by its income rather than by its outgo, we shall seek those occupations which yield the largest pecuniary reward; when we measure life by what we put into the world rather than what we take out of it, we shall seek those occupations which offer the largest field of usefulness.
Enough has been said to indicate that the world's work is broad enough to enlist all who are willing to work and that the variety is sufficient to allow each to follow his taste and select his field, provided only that he is actuated by a purpose to render to society a service which will be more than an equivalent for all that society has done for him.
( Originally Published 1907 )
The Old World And Its Way:
Homes And Shrines Of Great Britain
Glimpses Of Spain
A Word To Tourists
American Foreign Missions
A Study Of Governments
The Tariff Debate In England
Ireland And Her Leaders
Growth Of Municipal Ownership
France And Her People
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